Wednesday, March 29, 2017

'Twas a Good Day...but Not for the Bushes!!

Remember my post about the poisonous bushes in my back yard?  Well...I keep finding chewed-up yew branches on the back deck.  😒

So, to keep the crazy pooch from inadvertently committing suicide, today I found my (dilapidated) loppers and marched out there to end things once and for all with those bushes.

My nemeses:


There was clear evidence of where Thane has been pulling branches off:


I had hacked down one bush already, a few weeks ago, and at the time, I thought it was really hard work.  Today, for some reason, it seemed easier, and it didn't take long before those bushes looked like this:


I will still have to go back as the snow continues to recede (although I hear we're maybe getting more this weekend!!) and trim back any branches that are buried - and then I'll have to figure out how to remove the stumps once the ground is soft.  Hmm...I wonder how Mom and Dad feel about draft horses...  :D

In other news, it was a REALLY nice day, and Thane and I got to take a nice long walk in the woods.  It was a bit foggy this morning, but as we walked, the sun began to shine through the trees, and I just had to get out the camera.






Lol, for one photo, I decided that I needed to drop to one knee to get a better angle.  This is a dangerous move, because it goes something like this: 

1. Kneel
2. Quickly snap a couple photos
3. Brace for impact
4. CRASH!!

The cause of the crash?  This innocent-looking dude:


Yep, another one of Thane's quirks to add to the list - if he sees me crouching or kneeling, he just HAS to charge over at TOP SPEED and see what in the world I'm up to...and he has ZERO sense of personal space.  That's my boy.  Sigh.  

Oh!  I also saw cool tracks.  


I'm thinking maybe Raccoon?

Anyway, I hope that everyone else had a nice Wednesday too!  :)


Monday, March 27, 2017

Breed Profile #6: Kunekune Pigs

I pulled the spiles from our maple trees today...we were still getting two or more gallons of sap a day, but we figured we'd had enough for the season.  I have a bit more syrup to strain and can and a bit more sap to boil down, and then that's it until next year.  It's been a fun experiment, and I'm glad I gave it a try!

Today I figured I should finally do a breed profile on the Kunekune pig...I bet the piglets in the photos below have tripled in size by now - it's already been more than two weeks since I visited Grazing Hill Farm in Conway, NH.


The Kunekune sounds like quite an interesting breed!  Probably Asiatic in origin, it was likely brought to New Zealand in the 1800's by whalers, where the Maori people traded for them.  Docile, fairly small, and not inclined to wander, they made excellent village pigs.  

The boars keeping warm together.
The breed almost went extinct by the mid-1900's, however.  In the 70's, a conservation group used a handful of purebred pigs to begin rebuilding the breed.  

About a week old.
The conservation society was successful, and Kunekune pigs are now widespread in New Zealand, and have been exported to other countries as well.  They're still uncommon in the U.S,, though they're gradually becoming more well known.


Apparently the Polynesian word "kunekune" means plump - and that fits these pigs well!  They're not very tall, but they're quite rotund, and they have really short legs.  They have a short, upturned snout and wattles that hang under their chin.


A couple things really set this breed apart - first, its temperament, which one of my sources describes as "delightful."  They're friendly and docile; in fact, they actually enjoy human company.  They don't have a particular interest in wandering and won't challenge fencing.  (The pigs I met were definitely super chill!)


The second thing that sets this breed apart - and makes it particularly suitable for the small homestead - is that Kunekunes rarely root up the ground - instead, they graze.  They can thrive and grow fat on pasture, which is highly unusual - and helpful for someone who, like me, may want to use rotational grazing and doesn't want the ground all torn up.


Kunekune meat is said to be very good eating, with an excellent ratio of meat to fat...although, with the prices quoted to me, I think it would be very expensive pork unless I got into breeding the pigs myself!  


I'm kind of glad that I went on a very cold day...it helped to temper the adorableness of the piglets with the reality that conditions will be challenging at times.  For example, this little cutie above lost all of her siblings - the sow hadn't shown signs that she was about to give birth, so the owners did one final check, then went to bed.  The sow had her piglets in the night, probably while walking around the stall, leaving babies in every corner.  By the time the owners checked on the pig in the morning, all the babies but one had died from the cold, or perhaps from being stepped on.


Lol, it's so amazing to think that that teeny tiny little peanut will grow up to be the size of her mother - in around a year!


So...this is a pig breed that actually appeals to me, although I admit that I went there thinking that they're kind of ugly.  :P  I like the sound of "friendly" and "docile," and I also like the idea of having  a pig that won't root up all of my pastures.  (And there's also the advantage of having a breeder who lives so close to me!!  :P )  I'll definitely keep researching, but I can potentially visualize a few of these guys grazing the pastures of Butterscotch Farm someday!!


My sources:



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wednesday

Today I met with a mortgage dude.  He was very friendly and helpful, and I left the meeting with some numbers to think about, which REALLY helps with my planning!

I knew that I wouldn't be able to afford much house, and I was right - but the numbers are actually a fair bit better than I had anticipated.  Realistically, I probably ought to keep saving for a while, though, and still plan on it being at least a year before I move.

In other news, I collected nearly a gallon of sap despite the temperature dropping.  I boiled that and some from yesterday, and I reheated a small pot of almost-syrup from last week's batch...but I accidentally let that one boil over.  Whew.  It smoked a LOT!  (Although burned sugar is a lot nicer smell than most other burned things.)


Now that I think about it, I do remember reading to watch the pot carefully when it gets low - it'll boil over a lot faster when it's almost syrup...

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

8 Months Old!!

We had a stomach bug take our family by storm the past three days...so far, out of six people in the house, only my younger sister is still healthy.  She is very nervous.  ;P

I'm probably about 80% better, and I'm grateful that I was able to collect more sap (2.5 gallons today, plus a stockpot-full yesterday!!) and take the pooch on a walk in the woods.

Speaking of the pooch...guess who's 8 months old already!!


Yep, this photogenic dude is growing up fast!  He's 55 pounds, and will probably fill out a tiny bit more; I expect he'll top out right around 60 pounds.  Now, to some people, I know that 60 pounds sounds HUGE, but even though it's been a while, I still find myself comparing other dogs to my 30" tall, 100 lb Irish Setter.  With that dog in mind, Thane seems very small and compact.  :)


We've been through two obedience classes so far...his basic obedience is fairly good, though I could be a lot more consistent about practicing it with him.  Now I mostly need to work on a few bad habits he's picked up, like jumping up to say hi to people (he still LOVES people!), nipping at my hands and ankles on walks (we're making progress - yay!!) and not pulling tissues out of trash cans to shred.  :/


He is still very much a puppy...as evidenced by the pile of wicker basket shreds that I just swept up from under the dining room table...but it is good to see continued progress.  He's restless if he doesn't get a decent walk - but all he really needs in a day is one good walk and a couple play sessions to keep him happy.  I think that he'll have a really nice, moderate energy level when he's an adult.


He continues to have a fairly short coat, which is partly due to his age, but also a good sign that he's more Old-Time Scotch Collie than AKC-type Collie.  His coat probably will get some bigger, especially next winter, but I think it'll stay very manageable.


I had him tested a couple months ago to see whether he carries any of the gene mutations common in Collies - and he's clear!  That's great news for when it comes time to breed Butterscotch Farm's first litter of Scotch Collie puppies - Thane won't be passing down any major genetic faults to the next generation.  (I will also have Thane's hips checked for hip dysplasia before breeding him.)

Well...I've probably talked about my pooch for long enough.  Suffice it to say that I've still got my work cut out for me (he's entering the teenage phase now - eek!!), but we've come a long way, and I'm glad to have this crazy pup in my life.  :)


Friday, March 17, 2017

Breed Profile #5: Clun Forest Sheep

I've been really lazy about posting on here this past week.  I apologize - I imagine you've all been holding your breath as you wait to hear about sheep and pigs and maple syrup, right?  ;P

(The maple syrup production has slowed back down, by the way...my jugs are currently buried in snow!)

So, anyway, I was just researching the animals from my visit to Grazing Hill Farm last week, and the Clun Forest Sheep sound like an interesting breed.


First, Clun Forest apparently wasn't actually much of a forest...it was a grazing area near a town named Clun (in England, near the border of Wales).  It's a mountainous region, and with the guidance of shepherds, the Clun Forest Sheep became a hardy, prolific breed.

Ranging from 130-200 pounds, this breed is alert and active, but docile (even the rams!), hardy, and it lambs easily.  

To keep the focus away from mere outward physical characteristics, the breed association doesn't allow the sheep to be shown competitively (interesting!!), although they do have a breed standard.


Their wool is of good, consistent quality, or they can be used for meat.


They're easy keepers, thriving in climates ranging from harsh and cold to hot and humid.  They work well in small, grass-centered farms and homesteads.

Sounds like a potential good breed for Butterscotch Farm, if I decide to get into sheep!


Sorry I didn't get a ton of pictures...I took these on a ridiculously cold day - plus all the sheep except the ram kept hiding on the far side of their shed.

If you want to read more, here are the sources I consulted:




Happy Friday!!  :)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Farm Visit: Grazing Hill Farm, Conway, NH

So today I got to go meet Heather and her livestock at Grazing Hill Farm in Conway, NH!  It was a charmingly blustery day, with windchills well below zero - perfect day to stroll around outside and through an unheated barn, right?  :P  I really appreciate Heather's willingness to give me a tour despite the weather!

Situated on 22 acres in the Mount Washington Valley, Grazing Hill Farm currently has 15 acres set up for grazing - although right now, they're all covered with snow.  I have an invitation to go back when the grass is green.  :)  

Heather and her family raise registered Kunekune pigs, Clun Forest Sheep, and a handful of heritage-breed chickens.  I'll do individual breed profiles on the pigs and the sheep, but here's an interesting tidbit: the Kunekune pig is one of the few pig breeds that grazes (as opposed to rooting up the soil).

2 days old.
Heather uses rotational grazing, a system in which animals are allowed to graze one small paddock at a time, leaving behind their own all-natural fertlizer, before they're moved to the next paddock.  It's very healthy for the land, and will, over time, result in superior grazing land.  I'm researching rotational grazing for Butterscotch Farm; it's a very good system for any land, but particularly if you have limited acreage.

FARMER TIP: Heather suggests deworming your animals in one paddock and leaving them there for a bit before moving them to another paddock so that the worms don't spread through multiple pastures.



There are several outbuildings - a small shelter for the sheep, a chicken coop, and a larger barn divided into sections for the pigs.

FARMER TIP: When building a chicken coop, make it so you can open the laying box from the outside, so you don't have to climb into the coop to collect the eggs.



ANOTHER FARMER TIP: The barns on the property were already there, so Heather has made them work, but she says that if she were to build a new barn, she would make it a long structure with an aisle down the middle, flanked by stalls that open both to the inside and to the outside.

All in all, it was a short but highly educational visit.  Heather was very friendly and happy to answer my questions, and obviously knows her animals well and really cares for them.  I hope to go back sometime to see the lambs and to see a rotational grazing operation in action.

Thanks, Heather!!  :)

For more information on this farm, you can visit their website or their Facebook page.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Breed Profile #4: Barbados Blackbelly Sheep

Okay, last breed of sheep from True Colors Farm in Maine!!  

Tomorrow will start a new series - I'll be visiting Grazing Hill Farm in Conway, NH.  They have piglets!!!!!  :D  

But today, I'll just do a quick profile on an interesting breed of sheep - the Barbados Blackbelly.


(See the arrows?  I believe that those ones are the Barbados sheep.  The others are Barbados x Katahdin lambs, and our friend from last night, the Cheviot, who thinks she blends in perfectly...)


As you might suspect based on their name, Barbados sheep originated on the island of Barbados.  They're probably a cross of African hair sheep and European wool sheep, but they soon became their own breed and were possibly established as an item of commerce by the mid-1600's.  

They're a hair sheep, meaning that they don't have wool to shear.

They are hardy, not just in cold climates, but often in tropical locations, where wool sheep would struggle with the heat, humidity and parasites.  Barbados Blackbellies are, in fact, known for being able to resist parasites and diseases that would quickly bring down a wool herd.

While they can be bred young, and under good management can bear lambs up to twice a year, they take up to two years to reach their full adult weight of 85-130 pounds.  That makes them a little small for a market sheep, but a smaller sheep was more desirable in tropical climates without refrigeration.  Their meat is known for being exceptionally lean and mild-flavored.


They're described as a very active, alert breed.  Brenda, the owner of the sheep in these photos, says that they're flighty and hard keepers.  I read that they're very reactive to dogs...and I noticed that these sheep kept their eye on Thane and me, clustering watchfully behind their attack llama.

So...it sounds like an interesting breed, but perhaps not one for the beginner, especially a beginner with a herding breed dog!  If I was looking for meat sheep, though, Barbados crossbreeds might be a good choice, particularly if the parasite resistance was passed along to the next generation.

Yes, Llama, I see you...don't worry - I'm definitely not coming any closer!!
My resources:


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Breed Profile #3: Cheviot Sheep

I've almost run out of breeds to profile from my visit to True Colors Farm in Washington, ME...a lot of the sheep there are mixed breeds, which would be a little challenging to profile.  :P  

(Plus I'm visiting another farm on Saturday, so I need to finish up this series!)

However, there are just a couple more sheep I can talk about - Brenda has a few Barbados Sheep, which I'll do a post about tomorrow, and she has one purebred Cheviot ewe.


Sorry for the lesser-quality photos in this post...I was hesitant to get too close to the fence because the guard llama was giving me the evil eye.


Anyway...back to the sheep.  

The Cheviot is a medium-sized sheep known for its extreme hardiness.  It has been in existence in the Cheviot Hills (the border of England and Scotland) for many hundreds of years, and was expected to survive in that harsh climate with little to no shelter.  This has produced a hardy, resourceful sheep with excellent mothering skills, parasite resistance, and a good constitution.


As I research the breed, I'm getting conflicting information on whether the wool is of a desirable quality, but it sounds like the Cheviot is primarily used in outcrosses to meat breeds to produce high-quality market lambs.  The offspring matures to a good size quickly.  

This particular ewe has a Katahdin cross lamb, who's quite adorable:


The Cheviot can also be crossed with a wool breed for higher-quality wool.  Their wool weighs, on average, 8-10 pounds.  (Which I have no frame of reference yet to know if that's a good thing, but, hey - it'd make a nice random fact to casually toss into your next conversation!)

So...it sounds like the Cheviot might be an interesting breed to consider for Butterscotch Farm if I were interested in mutton, but not so much if I was hoping for particularly high-quality wool.  A Cheviot might be nice for crossing with other sheep, though, to increase the hardiness and mothering ability of another breed.

Can you spot the Cheviot hiding among the Barbados?  Lol.  :P
Here's the list of websites I used to research this breed, in case you want to do further reading:

Brittanica.  Short and to the point.
OSU.  Nice and detailed.
American Cheviot Sheep Society.  Lol, maybe a bit biased, but helpful.  :P
OSU again, but a different page.  Hmm...
Cheviot Sheep Society.  Surprisingly succinct!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Three Little Jars

I finally got around to canning my first batch of syrup today!  It filled 3 half-pint jars, with a tiny bit left over.  I'll let you look up your own tutorial, because there's a decent chance I did it all wrong...but they sure do look cute!


Monday, March 6, 2017

Breed Profile #2: Shetland Sheep

I'm still working on editing photos from my visit to True Colors Farm in Washington, ME last week.  Brenda, the owner of the farm, was kind enough to look at some of my photos and tell me what breeds her sheep are so that I can do a couple breed profiles!

Today, I have a few random facts for you about Shetland Sheep!


These sheep are really, really old.  Well, not the sheep in the above photo...I mean that the breed is old.  :P  Shetland Sheep have existed on the Shetland Islands for over 1000 years, thriving despite the harsh climate.


Shetland Sheep are on the smaller side, ranging from 75-125 pounds.  They're described as calm, charming, easy to handle...and intelligent.  Huh.  I'm not sure I've ever heard of any sheep breed that was considered intelligent!


They come in a zillion colors and patterns (or 11 and 30, if you want to be precise).  I was quite delighted by the list of patterns - it includes words like "Bersugget," "Bronget," "Flecket," "Gulgomet," and "Smirslet."  I think that the above sheep may be "Katmoget" patterned - but do NOT hold me to that!!

Shetland Sheep are one of the only breeds that can produce a fleece so black that it doesn't need any additional dye.  


Shetland wool is known for being particularly fine and soft - traditionally, the finest fibers were used to make a lace shawl that could be pulled through a ring - and the coarser fibers could be used for socks, outerwear, and tapestry yarns.  This was a huge industry for the Shetland Islands at one point.


I thought this was interesting - Shetland Sheep are considered a "primitive" (unimproved) breed, and many will naturally lose their fleece each year.  This can be hand collected when it's loose enough (called "rooing").  Or they can be shorn as you would do with other sheep.

So...there's a little bit about Shetland Sheep!  I like the sound of them - maybe someday I'll have a few Shetlands on Butterscotch Farm!  People would be welcome to come help me roo them.  :P


My research sources: